Countries, Ireland

Liam Neeson promoting Ireland and he will find you

I have a very particular set of skills I have acquired over a very long career. Not me (well, yes me) but another superstar.. Liam Neeson promoting Ireland and he will find you.

The big Ballymena man has that distinction which all the greats possess…

You can instantly recognise that it is him as soon as you hear his voice.

And he also possesses the gravitas and charisma which means that he can act as an ambassador both for his native Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Heck, he sees it the way he feels it, very Bryan Mills, as an Irishman and he wants to promote the island on which he was born and which developed him.

Because for as much as we on these islands know about the challenges and divisions that the two parts of the island of Ireland have had.

The rest of the world doesn’t want to make a traveller’s distinction.

They want to visit them both… and why not?

Taken star Liam has lent his voice to a new giant-screen documentary film.

It’s called Ireland which is produced by McGillivray Freeman Films and is sponsored by Tourism Ireland.

And it will go on release in select IMAX and giant-screen theatres across the US in February. 

This is your pilot Liam talking

In another’s tongue it might sound cliched to talk of emerald islands and paradise but when it comes from Liam Neeson.

The Neesonathon celebrates the island’s rich history, culture, arts and music, as well as Ireland’s spectacular scenery.

It takes its American audience across Ireland.

Following writer Manchán Magan and others on an action-packed journey from Dublin to Belfast.

And from Kilkenny to Cong.

Viewers will see breath-taking footage of places like the Cliffs of Moher, the Giant’s Causeway and the Skellig Islands.

Ireland’s call

The Big Man and big-time Ireland rugby fan said: There is a movement in Ireland to reconnect with our heritage, to rediscover what it means to be Irish.

“And I am delighted to help bring the joy and diversity of all that Ireland has to offer.

“Both the old and the new, to IMAX and giant-screen audiences worldwide.

‘As viewers experience Ireland’s great beauty and humanity on the world’s largest screens, they will fall in love all over again.’

And 

A previous film produced by MacGillivray Freeman Films for Brand USA (destination marketing organisation for the US), called Natural Parks Adventure, was seen by around 8 million people in IMAX and giant-screen theatres.

And a sneak preview

And for those who want to get a flick of the vid and drown in Liam’s voice here’s a taster.

So here it is Liam Neeson promoting Ireland and he will find you.

 

Deals, Ireland

Craic Friday

And my friends in Visit Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland can have this one… Craic Friday. For the usual consultancy fee, of course.

As promised more Black Friday offers (and like all the best Fridays they stretch into the weekend).

It’s always nice to share your favourite hotels with your friends.

Dublin’s delights

in with the fixtures: At the InterCon

And I’m glad to have passed on the charms of my favourite Dublin hotel, the iconic InterContinental in Ballsbridge, with my old pal and multi-award winning Travel writer Yvonne Gordon.

Yvonne has been editing an international guide book and dropped in on Nicky and his staff at the D4 institution, just next to my old stomping ground.

You’ll save 25% off their best flexible rate and enjoy:

A spacious deluxe guest room or a choice of luxurious suites with many with balconies.

And a special recommendation here from my own mermaid who rave about their 14m heated indoor pool and relaxation area.

And their 10% off ESPA products.

There’s limited time to book through Friday, December 3.

And the offers are for stays between Monday, November 29 this year and September 4 next year. And book three days before arrival.

Lusty helpings

Lusty Beggers… can be choosers

And you’ll have lusty helpings all right with the famous hospitality in Northern Ireland.

The deliciously named Lusty Beg Island Resort in Fermanagh is giving you 40% off a B&B courtyard stay for two for £105 per night.

Or book two nights B&B courtyard for two for £265 and receive. £70 voucher to use during your stay.

The offer is open from January 1 to March 31 and is open through tomorrow.

Donegal Mammy

Search and replace: That couple could be you

And, yes, no dip into Ireland can be complete without a namecheck for its northernmost county… my Donegal Mammy would never forgive me.

The scenic Harvey’s Point, set in the idyllic surroundings of Lough Eske and with the Bluestack Mountains as a backdrop, is just where you want to be at this time of year.

Or any time, to be fair.

Now if you book your gift voucher online before midnight on Monday you will get a 10% discount.

That’s towards the stay offers or can be used to enjoy an Afternoon Tea or a meal in the Lakeside Restaurant or Harvey’s Bar and Terrace.

So, even though it’s Saturday, I make no apologies for giving you Craic Friday.

That’s  Irish logic for you.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Ireland

An American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin

It probably wasn’t like this for the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1421… but I’ll more than take An American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, masks, double dose certificates at the Radisson Blu Royal.

And certainly not what the Pilgrims laid before the natives…

Dried meat and fish, grains and flour, dried foot, cheese and hard biscuits.

Chow on chowder

Catch of the day: chowder

Thankfully culinary fashions have changed and we dined on New England chowder, mini burgers and wings.

All the time listening to the band belting out American standards.

And taking a tour of America, around the stands, from New England, Washington DC, Georgia and Florida.

Right across the Mid-West (Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah).

And over to my old friends in California.

Flying time

Fly the flag: Aer Lingus

And you’ve got it… Aer Lingus and British Airways were there (are there) to take us back.

Now that the borders are open again.

Now like a kid in a candy shop the difficult thing is what to choose first.

Our American Travel Fair resumes in Florida in May.

Orlando, woah, woah, woah

Minnie brwak: Minnie and me

So all roads lead there… to Orlando.

Now if the Pilgrims thought that New England was a good enough starting point to explore the New World who am I to disagree.

The eastern seaboard collection of states and commonwealths I know well from a summer in Boston after university and day trips to New Hampshire.

Connect with Connecticut

Making his Mark: Mark Twain

But I’m grateful here to Sue from Connecticut for clueing me in on her state.

You might be familiar with Mark Twain name-checking it in his time-travelling tome A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of King Arthur.

And you’ll find everything you want to know about the Great American and his great creations Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in his museum here.

And also take in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house and get a glimpse of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

She’d be known today as HBS but back in the day to Abraham Lincoln she was ‘the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.’

It’s a rich old history and one I can’t wait to add to in 2022.

But for now it’s enough to acknowledge my dear old friends and embrace (with an elbow nudge) my new ones.

With an American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin.

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland

The summertime is coming

The summertime is coming and the trees are softly blooming. And the wild mountain Jim rolls around the blooming heather.

I’d rather be rolling around the blooming beach though I’ll settle for my front garden, North Berwick, until I get back out to the Caribbean.

But to mark the sun coming out, although I might jinx it, here’s some summer sizzlers to lift your Rainy Days and Songdays.

I remember that summer

And my summer girl in her autumn years

Summer in Dublin, Bagatelle: And this was the soundtrack of 1980 which is where he would always spend my summer.

I can’t remember the Liffey stinking like Hell but I was one of those young people looking so well on Grafton Street in Dublin.

Rock’n’roll never forgets, nor us, and singer Liam Reilly who was taken from us last year will always be a sound of our Dubliners summer.

It’s summer Irie

Irie Barbados: With Jevan and Donna

Money Well Spent, Biggie Irie: It’s the last day of Crop Over and I still have room for Bacchanal.

The Crop Over carnival, to be fair, lasts all summer and is the only thing Bajans devote their attentions to.

California, the best trip

Sloop John B, The Beach Boys: And it may have been the worst trip Brian Wilson ever went on.

But visiting SoCal, Southern California, and being entertained by the Boys, Snoop Dogg et al, was the best trip I’ve ever been on.

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Here comes the Sun, The Beatles: And The Beatles light up any summer.

Whether in Liverpool or Hamburg where I’ve followed in the Fab Four’s footsteps and I suggest you do the same.

Espana por favor

Going for a walk in Tenerife

Y Viva Espana, Sylvia: And Swede Sylvia’s song falls into the summer anthem category along again with Typically Tropical’s We’re Going To Barbados.

And, of course, it’s Britons and Irish go-to summer hotspot and ours too.

All of which brings us back to el hobby horse: why are the Canaries, off the coast of Africa not a special case.

After all those Tenerife trails won’t walk themselves.

So, seeing the summertime is coming then we should all blooming get out in the sun and sing and dance.

America, Countries, Ireland, Music

Shay Healy 1943-2021

We shared a fondness for Eurovision and Country music although he typically was a legend of both, rather than just an observer like me.

Shay was the star columnist in the award-winning Weekend lifestyle section of the Irish Daily Mail which I edited for five years.

His life was, of course, one well lived and any time in his presence was time well spent as Shay, like all Dubliners, was a natural storyteller.

Prize guy: With his IFTA Lifetime Achievement Award. www.ifta.ie

The hand that life deals us all had been unkind though to Shay in his latter years after he lost his beloved wife Dee Dee.

And he contracted MS which frustrated him as he could struggle to articulate himself.

Me doin’ my Nashville thang

All of which made his Irish Daily Mail column so much more precious.

As a vehicle to talk self-deprecatingly about his own condition and his life in music in general.

Our year: Shay wrote What’s Another Year for Johnny Logan

Music gave Shay the opportunity to travel and to sample life in another country when he went off to live in Nashville.

And it was while in Music City that he brushed shoulders with the Father of Rock’n’roll himself, Chuck Berry.

Shay regaled the tale in his own inimitable way recalling how he had found himself back stage at a Chuck concert.

Pals: Shay wrote for Billy Connolly

He had been given clearance to approach the great man and knocked on his dressing room door.

Beckoned in he found Chuck with a blonde sitting on his lap.

Chuck looked up with a big smile on his face and said; ‘You get two questions’.

Roll over Chuck Berry

To which a stunned Shay said: ‘Are you joking?’

And Chuck shot back: ‘One question left.’

There will be laughs aplenty and the best music tonight in Heaven.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – The Royal Canal and other Irish landmarks

Now the screw was peeping, as the lag lay sleeping. Dreaming about his girl Sal. And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle. All along the banks of the Royal Canal The Auld Triangle, The Dubliners

Luke Kelly drolled that ‘in the female prison there are 75 women and among them I wish I did dwell, and that auld triangle could go jingle-jangle all along the banks of the Royal Canal.’

And if you know this song, penned by Brendan Behan (and if you don’t then you’ve been missing out) you’ll walk along the Royal Canal in the north of Dublin singing it aloud.

Or if you’re cycling too as I have done, all the time hoping that the broken bottles wouldn’t puncture my tyres.

The Beardie Boys: The Dubliners

That was then, and this is now, and the announcement of the €12m scenic 130km Royal Canal Greenway is to be welcomed.

If you do the lot you’ll have chalked off 90 bridges, 30 locks, 17 harbours and four aqueducts.

And take in Co. Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford.

So as a preamble let’s get on with our Rainy Days and Songdays six of the best songs with Irish landmarks.

What a Corker!

Jim and Alan at the Phil Lynott statue in Dublin

As I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains, I met with Captain Farrell and his money he was countin’. I first produced my pistol, and then produced my rapier. I said ‘stand and deliver, or the devil he may take ye Whiskey in the Jar, Thin Lizzy 

Musha rain, dum a doo, dum a da.

The Cork and Kerry Mountains have always held a special affection for me as the first travel assignment when a cub reporter in Reading.

Going over said mountains in our Citroen cars was not helped by a bout of seasickness going over on the Swansea-Cork ferry.

But nothing that the local tipple, Murphy’s Stout and the craic didn’t put right.

Low lie those fields

Those low-lying fields: Athenry

Low lie the Fields of Athenry, where once we watched the small birds fly. Our love was on the wing. We had dreams and songs to sing. It’s so lonely round the Fields of Athenry  – Fields of Athenry, The High Kings

Lowing, or maybe braying, around those Fields of Athenry were our four donkeys which came with the rented cottage.

I can’t remember what la famiglia called the three others but mine was Oaty as in Donkey Oaty!

I was maybe just tilting at windmills.

And as for stealing Trevelyan’s corn… we just bought some from the Centra for the donkeys.

The Band is back together

Neat little town they call Belfast

 In a neat little town they call Belfast, apprentice to tradeI was bound…, a sad misfortune came over me which caused me to stray from the land, far away from my friends and relations, betrayed by the Black Velvet Band Black Velvet Band, Peaky Blinders

It was more good fortune that came over me… to take me away from my friends and relations to the States after university.

And work, no not on the Black Velvet Band’s pitch, Broadway, but Boston where I inevitably served tables at an Irish pub.

Where every night among the most requested songs was Black Velvet Band.

And yes, of course, like our gullible hero of the song ‘many an hour’s sweet happiness I spent I spent in this neat little town Belfast.

As for a black velvet band, or any colour for that matter, try as I may I never persuaded one… i wonder if she’ll be there when I return.

Where the Dark Mourne sweeps…

London’s got nothing on this

Oh Mary this London’s a wonderful sight with people here working by day and by night, they don’t sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat. But there’s gangs of them dogging for gold in the street. At least when I asked them that’s what I was told so I just took a hand at this diggin’ for gold. But for all that I found there I might as well be in the place where the Dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea Mountains o’ Mourne, Don McLean

Mourne Mountains, Co. Down: It’s always a thrill to see the Mountains of Mourne, my Dear Old Mum’s home province, when driving either north or south.

Mountains of Mourne this sweeping range, has a special place in our hearts as the lullaby I would sing to Daddy’s Little Girl.

It was round by Brockagh’s corner

Harkin’s Bar, Donegal

 It was down by Brockagh Corner one morning I did stray, I met a fellow rebel and this to me did say, he had orders from our captain to assemble at Dunbar. But how were we to get there without a car The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Beockagh, Co. Donegal: And still on lullabies this gentle little ditty about the Irish War of Independence is an alternative to nursery rhymes.

If your mother is from Nationalistic north-west Donegal that is.

Well it got me through childhood… give three cheers to the Teasy and Johnson’s Motor Car.

Meeting of minds in Wicklow

Moore Wicklow please

Sweet vale of Avoca! How calm could I rest. In thy bosom of shade with the friends I love best. Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease. And thy hearts, like thy waters, be mingled on peace. The Meetings of the Waters, John McCormack

And my beloved old homestead of Co. Wicklow and its poet laureate, Thomas Moore.

The Meetings is a family favourite, going back to the days when my Donegal Granny and Grandpa honeymooned here.

We would often return there in our Thirteen Years in Ireland on family day trips.

And skim stones which can be more of a danger sport than you might imagine.

Particularly if you’re that young boy on the other side of the bank who ducks just as a stone is jumping up out of the water.

Still, I did get a 12!

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Go! Monopoly around the world

We may never know why Vincent Van Gogh lost his ear, though here is a fine crime fiction on the subject, but who is to say it wasn’t after a row about Monopoly?

Our pals at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam are the latest to join the Monopoly club.

With the release of their own Vincent board game for Christmas.

Becoming one of hundreds of Monopolys around the world.

With at the latest count, the game being licensed in 103 countries and printed in more than 37 languages.

The Van Gogh version substitutes the Great Man’s art for the traditional streets.

Just painting

While among the pieces naturally is a paint tube though perhaps tastefully no ear.

Monopoly for most of us is as much part of Christmas as Santa, who often brought it fir our stockings, and Christmas turkey.

But it was also brought out when friends came over, or relatives, from home or abroad.

And this was when it got really exciting to see the names of their streets and public transport.

O’Monopoly

So when my Irish relatives got their Dublin board out it had such names as O’Connell Street, Shrewsbury Street in Ballsbridge where I got to stay, and the Busaras on it.

It was very much a point of honour that your country had its own Monopoly.

It was a sign that you were not under the English yolk.

Although when you did get down to London when you were older you didn’t feel such a tourist as you ambled along the Strand, Pall Mall and Fleet Street.

Big Appley

Most spectacular of all was the New York edition where you could say you owned Broadway.

All us poor Scots had to dream of was buying Mayfair, Park Lane or Old Kent Road.

Until the manufacturers stumbled on the rather obvious idea of giving us all what we wanted.

McNopoly

And so we got Edinburgh, and the Royal Mile, Princes Street, the two football stadiums, Easter Road and Tynecastle Park and the rugby ground, Murrayfield.

Now, of course there are now football clubs, film and TV franchises Monopoly merchandise.

D’Ohpoly

In fact you name it and Monopoly have probably adapted it to your needs.

And so I have in my attic a Royal Caribbean cruise game as well as a Simpsons game.

From my travels in Europe and in Orlando.

Of course Monopoly, while having a deeply suspicious Property speculation message in its origins back in 1935, has really become a vehicle for imagination.

And discovering about foreign destinations…

By plane, ship, car… or my personal favourite, a wee Scottie dog.

Countries, Culture, Europe

The Joyce of Trieste

Dublin’s most famous son (move aside Bono) famously chronicled a day in the life of an everyman in the fair city.

But he, of course, fell out with its burghers and went into exile in mainland Europe, falling in love with Trieste.

Where he is still remembered with affection as much as in his home city.

Mediterranean Man: Joyce in Trieste

So much so that they erected a statue to the Great Man there too while for a step by step guide of Joyce’s Trieste check out this site.

And dander over to the Joyce Museum in the famous old town to get up close and personal.

Of course the best place to channel your inner Joyce at the Cafe Stella Polare.

Joyce’s bolthole

Be sure you take your pen and pad for your Ulysses (or write it on your iPad).

While you should also check out the titular Caffe James Joyce.

So what is it about Trieste and coffee?

Well, it was only the gateway from the East Indies and the Middle East to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Say again.

Well, Trieste was a Habsburg port back for centuries before the empire broke up after the First World War.

Which means Naval Captain Von Trapp’s town was actually an Italian and that was key to him getting out of Nazi Austria.

Which you know already from my Austrian travels but here’s a reminder.

Anyhoos Trieste is the jewel of the Friulia Venezia Giulia whose joys I have been enjoying, from mountain to woods to sea in the Virtual Italian Zoom Week.

I’ll be bringing you more in tomorrow’s Hungry and Thursday and all your favourite features.

MEET YOU IN THE CAFE

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Ireland, the friendliest place in Europe

Forget about that ridiculous ubiquitous Ed Sheeran,, Country star Steve Earle’s Galway Girl is the definitive tribute.

Some of my earliest longings and fumblings were for Galway girls, on holiday to a Salthill mobile home park.

Of course, in the late 70s and early 80s, the tradition for awkward, gawky Glaswegians was to sit in the corner and well, just gawk at the girls.

The Salthill Strand

Galway, this year’s European Capital of Culture, tops a Conde Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards list of favourite cities.

And they’ll just love beating Dublin into second place.

The two Irish cities push the jewel of the Med, Valletta, into third.

The Maltese city boasts, for me, the most gorgeous harbour in the world.

And memories… I bent down there to tie my shoelaces 26 years ago, Miss F shouted Yes and one year later became the Indomitable Mrs M.

While my readopted city of Edinburgh also makes it onto the list at No.7 and the epic Athens at No.9.

Green Mickey

Ears to you, Mickey

Maybe y’all missed No Coal Burning Mickey, the eco-friendly alternative to Steamboat Willie, but Da Mouse is right on point with cleaning up the planet.

Mickey has come out on top of an Uswitch eco-friendly poll of the leading tourist spots around the world.

Who knew? Well, you do now.

Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney in Florida boasts a 270-acre 50+megawatt solar facility which operates enough sun to operate two Disney parks.

The solar facility has the power to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 52,000 metric tons.

Which is equivalent to removing 9,300 cars from the road each year.

Of course the warmest thing you can get at Magic Kingdom is a Mickey hug. And here’s to when we can all repeat this.

And, of course, his is a hug that wraps around the world, from Florida to California, to Paris, to Hong Kong.

All our old faves are on the poll, Niagara Falls, our pals at Universal, Universal Studios Orlando, Universal Studios Hollywood and SeaWorld Orlando.

And the others we’ll get round to when we…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Countries, Deals, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Ryanair’s a homer’s odyssey in Ireland

Ryanair has always retained its Irish quirkinesses on its way to conquering the world as the major low-fares airline.

Its harp, its name after founder Tony Ryan and its home passengers saying rosaries. playing the lottery and clapping on arrival.

Some unpronounceable name below

And they never forget where they came from and want us to visit, offering seven days in Cork, £17.23pp return, Monday, September 28-Monday, October 5.

Five days to Shannon, Sunday, October 11-Friday, October 16. down from £24.23 and five days in Dublin, Sunday, October 11-Friday, October 16. See terms, conditions.

Another great aspect of Ryanlife is introducing you to places you’d never heard of to keep the costs down.

Ergo the sale which offered among others, Lublin 106 miles south-east of Warsaw then I’ll let you know of the next i e.

They were offering €9.99 one-way in your Ryanair September sale. It ended midnight last night, Tuesday, September 15.

More Aer time

This is your captain speaking

And Ireland’s national airline carrier Aer Lingus want to fly us away too… for the price of a night out.

With prices from €29.99 they’ll whisk you away to Athens, Alghero and Alicante.

Now that’s the As I’ll give you a ‘V’ as in Verona and let you run through the other letters.

The offers end variously between September 29 and 30.

Lost in France

Everything you need

I may paint a picture of a Dickensian upbringing but, in truth, my Dear Old Mum did spoil me as the baby of the family.

And I’ll forever be grateful for everything she, and my Dad, did for me, including giving me my wings.

And allowing me to go off on a post-school camping trip to France, at the sane time my aunt stopped my cousin going.

Chic: On the French Riviera

All of which pricked a lifelong interest for Cannes and the French Riviera.

It all feels just now like being a schoolboy all over again as we wait for permission to travel abroad.

I’m still smarting that my Normandy and Monet trip has been deferred but it has merely whetted my appetite for France.

And here’s one resort too look forward to that is pure heaven.

My room (or floor)

Evian Resort in Evian-les-Bains, has the mineral H2O, of course, and the wellness centre with all those lovely spells.

But it also has family fun, sporting activities and camps, and even opera.

Families booking into the 5* Evian Resort (with free stay for under-13s) can also avail of their Le Fabuleux Jardin rooms.

And there is also a flexible 24-hour cancellation policy.

And the view is all mine too

Evian also have a Freedom offer, promising 20% discounts on accommodation from €264 per night to £238 per night for Hotel Royal.

And from €152|£141 at Hotel Ermitage.

And here’s an Ibiza beezer

It’s always sunny

My Dear Old Mum has always been a sun worshiper which is why one year she left my Dad and brothers at home while we went off to Ibiza.

Which is how I grew to love the Balearic Islands.

And you’ll always be outside

7 Pines Kempinski has new 2021 early booking offers, a new Villa experience and a Pershing Yacht Experience package.

The table is set

There is 20% off their 2021 daily rate (starting from €300 per night) as well as a Long Stay Offer with 25% off for stays of eight nights or more.

Oh Mexico

As James Taylor sang to us in the RDS in Dublin ‘it sounds so simple I just got to go, the sun’s so hot I forgot to go home, I guess I’ll have to go now.’

And particularly as my pals at Caribtours/email escapes@caribtours/ are offering a third off seven nights at the Unico 20N 87W Hotel Riviera Maya.

From €2,059pp sharing an Alcoba room on an all-inclusive basis.

Travel 19 December 2020-31 October 2021. From price based on 17 June 2021 departure with British Airways via London Gatwick.